Cameras to catch school bus law breakers being tested
Drivers who blast past school buses with the red lights flashing and stop arms out risk getting caught on camera in Chilliwack, where a new onboard surveillance system is now being tested.
That’s welcome news to angry CTV News viewers, who contacted the station earlier this week after seeing footage of at least nine drivers barreling by a Surrey school bus with its red lights flashing.
By law, you must stop both in front and behind a school bus with its lights flashing and stop sign out.
Right now it’s up to bus drivers to report violators, which means getting a description of the offending driver, plate number, location and time of the violation. That’s a lot to take in while trying to keep focused on the road and the kids.
But a high definition camera system developed by Abbotsford’s Gatekeeper Systems could change all that.
Thirteen U.S states have already passed laws allowing the onboard school bus cameras to provide the evidence needed to issue tickets.
Gatekeeper CEO Doug Dyment believes the cameras are long overdue and has teamed up with the Chilliwack School District to put his system to the test in Canada.
Three school buses in Chilliwack have already been outfitted with five cameras each. The system’s onboard computer has the ability to upload video and pics in real time and it records the date, time and location.
"Well it catches them going through coming either way. I mean we get them passing coming through from the front and they'll pass coming from the back as well," Shane Merriman, Chilliwack School District Transportation Manager told CTV News.
The B.C. communities of Fort St. John and Williams Lake and the province of Saskatchewan are also testing the system, and Prince Edward Island has bought cameras for 18 of its school buses.
The camera system ranges in cost from $1,500 to $4,000.
When in full use, the system can be integrated into motor vehicle departments to set up an automated ticket system but laws need to pass to allow that to happen. It’s already being done in Jones County in the state of Georgia.
The tickets would be sent out by Gateway and the revenues would be shared with the municipality in a revenue sharing arrangement.
Here in Canada, it’s hoped that first step would be for provinces to pass laws to allow the video as credible evidence to issue infractions.
Current fines for school bus violators vary across Canada. Maximum fine currently in B.C. is $167. In P.E.I., a driver who ignores school bus lights could be fined up to $5,000. Just today a driver in P.E.I. was ordered by a judge to pay a $2,000 fine for passing a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing. In that case a police officer in an unmarked car provided the evidence needed to issue the ticket.
Police can’t be everywhere. There are more than 550,000 school buses on the road in North America and every day it’s estimated 15 million drivers ignore the warning lights.
Dyment believes even if the camera system is not being used to issue tickets, it may, at the very least, act as a deterrent.